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Your Stories: Why the pandemic couldn’t stop Shaun Taylor opening his dream agency on the high street

The first agent to open a shop under the Inspire Travel brand, Shaun Taylor, tells Samantha Mayling about setting up Inspire Travel by Shaun, in Bourne, Lincolnshire

Q. What is your background in travel?
A. I worked at Thomas Cook HQ in Peterborough for 10 years in financial roles, then at Tui from 2018 until I left my senior commercial manager role in March 2020. I was at Thomas Cook when there were lots of changes under [former chief executive] Harriet Green. I was really sad when it went out of business, it had so much history.

Q. Why did you set up as an agent with Inspire Travel?
A. I’ve always loved travel and had made the decision to become a homeworker at the end of 2019 as my role at Tui was being made redundant. I started in March 2020 as a homeworker but didn’t make a lot of bookings so I didn’t have too much stress with rebookings. During August, I did some pop-up shops which were like a free travel clinic, to show that I am a font of knowledge.

“I started in March 2020 as a homeworker but didn’t make a lot of bookings so I didn’t have too much stress with rebookings.”

Q. How did you manage during the lockdowns?
A. I have been training with Inspire, developing my own business plan and looking for the ideal premises. I worked as a delivery driver for Amazon and food brands, like I did when I was at university. From January to May this year, I was a patient assessment support officer for the NHS – it was good to give back. My wife has been working at home; she is an accountant for a food manufacturer and has been supportive. Her steady income allowed me to do this [agency venture]. I fell between the cracks for financial support as I was not able to get SEISS support [Self-Employment Income Support Scheme] or furlough payments. A local restrictions grant from South Holland District Council [Lincolnshire] helped me get through.

“I fell between the cracks for financial support as I was not able to get SEISS support [Self-Employment Income Support Scheme] or furlough payments.”

Q. How has Inspire Travel helped you?
A. The training webinars we have on Wednesdays have been very important because so much has been changing; we need to keep on top of it all. Inspire pays 50% of the commission a month after the booking is made, and 50% the month after travel. It is one of the reasons I chose Inspire, as it helps with the cashflow. I am their first agent to have a proper retail high street shop. Lisa Henning [managing director, who joined in April] has been really good and very supportive. She is moving the business on and I have really noticed the difference since she arrived [in March 2021]. Alexis Coles Barrasso [PR and communications manager] offers PR support too, which is really helpful, as I have no PR experience. My shop opening had coverage in the local papers and trade press – it gets my name out there with reps. I also called a Radio 5 Live phone-in and spoke to [presenter] Nicky Campbell.

“My shop opening had coverage in the local papers and trade press – it gets my name out there with reps. I also called a Radio 5 Live phone-in and spoke to Nicky Campbell.”

Q. How do you market your agency?
A. I have been building up my social media presence over the past year and shared posts with local Facebook groups. Facebook is my main way of marketing at the moment and I am working with Inspire on my website. Before my shop opening day [June 5], I did a Facebook post which got 20,000 views in a week. There was a constant stream of people popping into the shop that day.

Q. What are you selling?
A. Just after opening, I sold a three-night break at Woodstock near Blenheim, and enquiries are coming in quicker than I expected. I offer a lot of UK coach trips and I’m pushing cruising, as I’ve been on lots of cruises. Disney was one of my main accounts at Tui. I’ve been to the parks in Florida, California and France on fam trips and did lots of training, so I’m big on Disney. I can offer something different from a tour operator and I’m careful about the hotels I use, as it’s my reputation. On holiday in the Lake District this summer, I was able to check out some hotels.

“Just after opening, I sold a three-night break at Woodstock near Blenheim, and enquiries are coming in quicker than I expected.”

Q. What plans do you have for the store?
A. I want to get staff in once things pick up. This shop used to have four staff when it was a branch of The Co-operative Travel, so I think there will be demand. I would not have done this if I did not think it would be busy. Travel will bounce back – people want to go on holidays.


Shaun Taylor 2

Why did you choose to open this shop?

When I became a homeworker, I always knew I wanted to open a shop – that is why I chose Inspire. When I worked for bigger companies, I saw how they were cutting stores; however, lots of people are still going into shops. This shop, in Abbey Road in Bourne, Lincolnshire, used to be a branch of The Co‑operative Travel, so everyone in the town knows about it. Bourne has lots of older people and they prefer being face‑to‑face with an agent. When I moved into the premises, there were lots of brochure racks – I had to take some down. I spoke to previous staff who gave me ideas about products to sell. People say it’s great to have a travel agent in town. They like to support local businesses.

“People want a lot of reassurance and ask about Abta. Inspire Travel has a ‘Confidence Guarantee’ which protects bookings if they are affected by Covid.”

The shop is my name so I offer a personal service. I offer clients drinks and refreshments when they come in, so there is a non‑pressured environment. I’m Abta‑licensed and Atol protected – people want a lot of reassurance and ask about Abta. And Inspire Travel has a ‘Confidence Guarantee’ which protects bookings if they are affected by Covid.

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